In Greece, UN envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt shines light on emergency response for thousands of refugees – On eve of migration summit, UN rights expert urges EU countries to revisit border controlsPosted by Jim at Wednesday, March 16, 2016
16 March 2016 (UN) – Making Turkey the “gatekeeper’ does not absolve Europe from its responsibility of welcoming migrants, a United Nations human rights expert today, warning that the only way for Europe to secure its borders is to offer safe and regular channels for mobility.
“European member states once responsible for drafting key legislation on human rights and humanitarian protection are about to abandon their obligations. In the midst of the greatest migration crisis in Europe since world war two, they are passing their responsibility off to a third-country for political expediency,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau.
He was speaking on the eve of the European Union migration summit, where leaders from the 28-country bloc will discuss a new agreement with Turkey to readmit all migrants crossing irregularly to Greece.
Mr. Crépeau said he is “deeply concerned” about proposals that ignore the principle of non-refoulement, a principle of international law that forbids sending victims of persecution, often by a State actor, back to his or her persecutors.
Closing borders would increase the suffering of migrants and likely motivate them to take riskier journeys with smugglers, he noted, speaking out against “dominant anti-immigration nationalist populist discourse.”
“The only way to reduce migrant smuggling is to take over the market by offering regular, safe, and cheap mobility solutions, with all the identity and security checks that efficient visa procedures can provide,” he insisted.
In his statement, Mr. Crépeau also noted that Greece and other countries on the frontline lack the adequate support to cope with the streams of refugees.
“This burden must be shared by all 28 EU States – it should be mandatory that EU nations either relocate people themselves or financially support States who are taking in asylum seekers,” he said.
The UN expert also voiced concern about reported violence targeting migrants, including physical assaults and expropriation of property by law officials.
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
16 March 2016 – Angelina Jolie Pitt, the United Nations refugee agency’s special envoy, is today visiting Greece, which has become the main entry point to Europe for refugees and asylum seekers fleeing Syria and other strife torn countries.
“I am here to reinforce efforts by UNHCR [Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees] and the Greek government to step up the emergency response to the deteriorating humanitarian situation,” she said. “I look forward to meeting authorities, partners and volunteers working on the ground to improve conditions and ensure the vulnerable are protected.”
Ms. Jolie-Pitt is highlighting the humanitarian situation of thousands of refugee families in Greece, most of whom were forced to flee Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Nearly 85 per cent of all the refugees and asylum seekers who have arrived in Europe landed in Greece since January 2015.
Her first trip to Greece on behalf of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees comes the day after her visit to Lebanon, on the fifth anniversary of the Syrian conflict, where she stressed the need for leadership and coordinated international action to address the root causes of the global refugee crisis.
The Special Envoy's visit comes on the eve of a critical meeting between European Union Member States and the Government of Turkey that will potentially affect thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in Greece, according to UNHCR.
In Greece, she expressed her appreciation for the support and solidarity Greece has shown the hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers who have landed on their shores after dangerous and difficult, sometimes deadly, journeys.
Ms. Jolie-Pitt also focused on access to adequate reception conditions and protection, including those legal pathways available to refugees and asylum seekers, such as the EU relocation programme.
She has highlighted challenges and constraints facing the emergency response, as well as ways UNHCR could further support the Government and communities in Greece, and promote support for refugees with specific vulnerabilities, such as women-headed households, unaccompanied children, disabled, or those who have been exposed to sexual or gender based violence.
UNHCR has set up eight field offices with hundreds of staff and significant resources to support shelter, water and sanitation, health and protection services among other priorities.
There are more than 40,000 people in Greece who have arrived during the past weeks, who desperately need protection and humanitarian support, but efforts are not meeting all the needs on the ground and the situation is deteriorating daily, according to UNHCR.
ATHENS, 16 March 2016 (AFP) – Hollywood star and UNHCR goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie turned the spotlight of celebrity Wednesday onto the plight of thousands of refugees crowded in camps in Greece.
After visiting a makeshift camp in the port of Piraeus, Jolie said the refugees were stuck in a "deteriorating humanitarian situation" and needed help.
The 40-year-old actress, dressed in a black T-shirt and trousers, spent around 30 minutes at the port, speaking to UN staff and refugees coming to Piraeus from the islands facing Turkey.
Some 4,000 people are packed in terminals and tents there. They are just a fraction of the number of people who are stranded in Greece after the so-called migrant trail, heading from the Balkans up to northern Europe, was closed off by national border controls.
Surrounded by a throng of media, Jolie had difficulty in reaching her car through the crowd but kept her composure as photographers and camera crews jostled for position and refugee children struggled to stay upright.
"Watch the kids," she told her security detail.
As she left, dozens of refugees chanted "Skopje, open the borders" in a reference to Macedonia who last week barred passage to all war and poverty exiles, a policy followed by other Balkan states. [more]